Since the fateful day your soul mate got down on one knee with a tiny box, you've become inundated with wedding planning decisions. But one detail you probably never dreamed would be part of the equation is: How do I include my future stepchildren into my wedding? Nowadays, though, blended families are quite common. (I myself gained a beautiful daughter, Bentley—who loves unicorns, preparing pancakes, and outrageous amounts of glitter—when I married my partner in crime back in July 2016.) The U.S. Census Bureau reveals that “1,300 new stepfamilies are forming every day,” and a 2015 Pew Research center study suggests that 16 percent of children are living in what the Census Bureau terms "blended families—a household with a stepparent, step-sibling or half-sibling.”
Parenthood doesn’t require DNA; all you need is love. And how do you ensure that the day is truly special for everyone involved ? Here are 10 affection-filled ways to make your blended-family ceremony unforgettable:
Give Them a Role
A classic way to include your future sons or daughters in your ceremony is giving them a role in the wedding. When they look back on the big day, they will love that they played a part by showering the aisle with flower petals, holding onto the rings for safekeeping or—for the older demographic— standing by your side as a bridesmaid or groomsman.
Want to take it up a notch? Have their attire match or complement yours in some way. If you’re wearing a cream-colored gown, put your future daughter in the same shade. Or have some fun with the little details that make all the difference—matching hair accessories, bouquets, or ribbon sashes. For the guys, have father and son don replica ties, boutonnieres or shoes. Wearing coordinating outfits shows that you’re on the same team.
Make a Vow of Everlasting Love
Let’s be honest—when your fiancé(e) has kids, you are saying "I do" to them as well. Prior to proclaiming your vows to your spouse at the altar, take a moment to promise to cherish, love, and protect your future stepchildren, too. It will mean the world to them, and show you're committed to them as well as their mom or dad.
Give a Gift
The bride has her engagement ring. Both bride and groom have wedding bands. Bridesmaids and groomsmen are even presented with gifts. Presenting something special to your soon-to-be child is a wonderful gesture to symbolize that he or she is an important part of this new family. A great commemorative gift could be a piece of jewelry or a watch that is engraved with the wedding date, something with a birthstone, or even a family heirloom.
Incorporate a Family Blessing
The blessing will vary from family to family, but regardless of religion, customs, background, or the specific wording, the message will be the same: May your home be a place full of unconditional acceptance, love, and comfort. This can be read during the ceremony—right after your vows to your stepchild and just before the ones you’ll make to your spouse—or displayed on a sign at your reception.
Invite Them to Join the Unity Ceremony
Another great way to involve children in the ceremony is to come up with a kid-friendly unity ritual (meaning something less dangerous than candles, probably). Get creative! Have family members pick their favorite candy to pour out of individual mason jars into a massive “Us” jar. Remind them that each person adds a signature flavor to the mix and there's nothing sweeter than family. Another option is a family painting: Use painter’s tape to make the shape of a heart on a white canvas. During the ceremony have each person squirt his or her favorite color of paint to create a magical and meaningful piece of art to hang in your home.
Top Off the Cake
Who says that the bride and groom should be the only cake toppers? Add your stepchildren to the tiers, and let them keep the neat memento after the fact. You can even personalize toppers by age and hair color!
Rock Out on the Dance Floor
After the much-awaited first dance, invite the kids to come out and join you for a upbeat number, such as “Shut Up and Dance.” If you really want to get bonus points, you could choreograph a family flash mob. Slap on some sunglasses and a whole lot of swagger.
Serve a Signature Mocktail
Pick something cheerful like Shirley Temples with extra cherries, milkshakes topped with whipped cream, or virgin daiquiris full of fresh fruit. For the toasts, be sure to have milk “shots" that go best with a plate of cookies. These options will be so much cooler than water with ice. When it comes to special occasions, a sugar rush is necessary!
Make the kids' table the party table. At each place setting have a mini Beanie Baby, crayons, and coloring paper. Ditch the fancy glassware for plastic (nonbreakable) plates and cups in bright neon colors. You could even have a bin of Legos be the centerpiece to keep them content throughout the whole evening.